Luke Roberts (Part 1 of 3)
by Brian “Flair” Kelley
Luke, you have been in the business now for 18 years. How did you go about it and what did your family think about this decision?
As far as getting into the wrestling business, I was very fortunate that my brother had been wrestling at South Broadway for a couple of years prior to my in-ring debut. Many people said that there was no way I would survive, let alone succeed in professional wrestling. Typically, as brothers are, my brother loved the idea of being able to beat on his brother and get paid for it. My father thought that it would be a good way to toughen me up. My mom was scared to say the least.
What were your first roles in the business?
My first roles in wrestling were very challenging. I was in charge of playing entrance music for the wrestlers. I helped with printing and story ideas for the South Broadway program. I ran jackets and things back to the locker rooms. Even at an early age, I pretty much had to know a large amount about professional wrestling.
Who in the business has been the most instrumental in your success?
Well, I can honestly say that several people were instrumental in getting me to where I am today. My trainers, Billy Bob, John Blackheart and “The Human Wrecking Ball” Pete Madden were very instrumental in getting my mind into pro wrestling. They showed me not only the flash and the glitz of wrestling, but how to protect yourself at the same time. As a referee, I would have to say that the most instrumental in my career would have to go to Butch Fletcher. He knew me from my days as a wrestler, knew my heart was definitely into wrestling, and asked me to referee for him. The rest is history.
What has surprised you the most about wrestling in general?
What has surprised me the most about wrestling is the “who you know” mentality of a lot of pro wrestlers. There are many wrestlers who get overshadowed by those who don’t deserve to be involved in the spotlight. I know several great wrestlers who have had to leave wrestling because they could not get their fair chance.
At an early point of your life, who in “The Big Show” did you look up to? Being in the business for so long, did you ever meet that person and what were your thoughts afterwards?
As a young child, my brother and I were huge into wrestling. I really liked Harley Race. At first, I could not explain why I liked him other than my brother and my dad did, so I guessed I should, too. After a couple of years of being involved in wrestling, I wrestled on a show for the Mississippi Valley Wrestling Alliance. The main event was the crowning of the MVWA Missouri State Champion. The match was between Derek Stone and Ace Steel. Harley was going to present the belt to the winner. I was a nervous wreck before my tag team Lemay Street Fight. Just talking to him, I learned so much and became much more relaxed. I really wish that I could have had more time to talk with him. He is one of the classiest people I have ever met in professional wrestling.
Your reply may be lengthy, but it is very important. Give us the history of pro wrestling in St. Louis over the past 18 years in the eyes of Luke Roberts.
The St. Louis professional wrestling scene has changed so much in the last twenty years that you would swear there is no way that St. Louis survived with only one promotion in town. In the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, South Broadway was the “only game in town” yet the wrestlers were top notch. The main “bad guy” was the Giant Assassin. He was managed by Big Daddy. These two were able to lift a finger and almost incite riots. On a monthly basis, they would consistently wrestle wrestlers like Ron Powers, Ed Smith, Gary Jackson, and a host of others. There was no one who could take them down. They were the “in crowd” at South Broadway. People wanted to be seen with these two people. They were almost, at times, like rock stars. The light heavyweight scene was unmatched. With a roster like Keith Smith, Chaz Wesson, Pete Madden, Danny Boy, John Blackheart, Johnny Jett and others, they consistently tore the house down every month. In the mid 1990’s, the scene changed with the emergence of companies like the Interstate Wrestling Alliance (IWA), Central States Wrestling Alliance (CSWA), and Central Championship Wrestling (CCW). Out of this group, CSWA turned into Rampage Championship Wrestling (RCW). The IWA changed on the business side of the company and became the Mississippi Valley Wrestling Alliance (MVWA). As the late 1990’s approached, a lot of the “trend setting” was being done by Midwest Renegade Wrestling (MRW). Most of today’s fans would know that MRW morphed into the wrestling juggernaut that became Gateway Championship Wrestling (GCW). Until GCW came around, no one single company had the power to challenge South Broadway. Once a company could show that they could challenge them for the top spot, it seemed like companies were coming out of the woodwork. If it weren’t for GCW, companies like the UWA and LWA may not have materialized to become the companies that they are today.
You have been a referee, wrestler, ring announcer and commentator among other things in the business. Which facet do you prefer and why?
If I had to choose one, I would say that I enjoy refereeing the most. At 31, it still gives me the adrenaline rush that wrestling did, but without a lot of the bumps and bruises that come with it. Refereeing also keeps you mentally “on your toes” at all times.
Who in your mind is the best ever in the positions you have worked with and why?
It is really hard for me to limit it to one on this question. I would say that there have been three referees that really stand out to me. One referee that stands out to me is Bama Bodine. This guy was about five feet tall and weighed about 100 pounds. He was the tiny referee that everyone tried to push around, but was always able to put you right in your place. The second one would be Butch Fletcher. In his day, he was always able to be in the right place to where he would be refereeing a match, but you would never know he was there. The last referee is Michael Crase. As far as referees today go, he is the best in St. Louis. Every time I refereed a show, I hoped that he would be there. If he wanted to be, I feel that he has the skills to referee for any of the major companies if he chose to do so.
Ring Announcer –
I would say that the best announcer that I have worked with would have to be Dr. Love in the LWA. His work is acceptable. His energy, however, is unmatched. I try my best to match his level of energy and, to this day, I have not found a way to match it.
Frank Reed always seems to know something about everyone. He can take one piece of information about a wrestler and weave it together to where you would think that he has known the person for years. Frank always thinks on his feet and that’s what makes him so good.
What are your thoughts on Jeremy Borash?
I feel that he brings a lot to the table in terms of what he can do for a wrestling company. He seems like he can do almost anything. I try to model and compare a lot of how I do things to him.
Have you ever been asked to be a part of an angle that you refused or afterwards regretted?
Early in my career, nothing was out of my realm. I was willing to do anything to make people hate me. Today, I am a little more limited and reserved with what I do.
Any good road stories that come to mind?
My first road trip to Chicago was great. Billy Bob, Mark K. Fabe and I wrestled in St. Charles on a Saturday night. We drove almost all night to get to Chicago. We were told to take a particular exit to our hotel. When we got to the exit, we remembered hearing something about road construction by our hotel. We figured that we could just go to the next exit, turn around, and backtrack to our hotel. Needless to say, our five minute detour cost us almost an hour and a half.
Then, going on about two hours of sleep and a lot of soda, I tried to take a shower. By this time, a wrestler known as the Beast charged through the door, scaring me half to death. I have never been the same since. Once I finally got of the shower, I heard a ton of noise and the phone ringing. Apparently, two other wrestlers wanted Mark Fabe to wake up. So, in typical wrestler fashion, they start throwing standing moonsaults on the bed until he woke up.
Finally, we met up with several of the other wrestlers from the show for breakfast. One of the wrestlers, Matt Taylor, was feeling really bad from too much partying the night before. We all started talking about what we wanted to eat, he turns as green as a piece of grass, runs screaming across the restaurant, hurdling tables as he went to the restroom. The show was horrible, but getting to the show was a blast.
Another good road story happened a couple of years ago after a UWA show. Scott Murphy and I were coming home from a show. We stopped at a McDonald’s with Scott’s wife and a friend of ours. Scott was being loud, which for him is not that difficult. We all try to get him to quiet down. I had to go to the restroom. I realized on my way there that there were two on-duty police officers at the McDonald’s as well. So, on the way back, I told Scott that we needed to go before the police arrested him. He did not believe me until we were leaving and he saw them follow us out of the McDonald’s. Then, the officers followed us for almost a half mile before they turned down another road. Scott has always said that he was not scared, but I could tell that Scott got a little more than he bargained for.
Wrestling fans never seem to get enough of stories of guys ribbing each other, how do you feel about them and would you care to share some?
Ribbing other wrestlers is a staple of professional wrestling. Many professional wrestlers are like the class clowns from junior high school. Ribs definitely make things much more fun. Some of the ribs that I have seen include completely wrapping a wrestler’s bag in duct tape, hiding people’s clothes throughout the building, and putting an inappropriate bumper sticker on someone else’s car.
The best rib that I was a part of was on the way to a show in Cahokia, Illinois. We told one of the younger wrestlers that we were going to play tag. He got out of my car and tagged another wrestler’s car. While he was doing this, the light changed, and we left the guy standing in the middle of the road. We watched him as he begged for a ride to the show. It was priceless. So, the other wrestler lets him get in the car. When we came to the next stop light, the guy pulls the exact same trick on the guy, but manages to have the wrestlers actions seen by a Cahokia policeman. We all played it off like the officer was going to come and arrest him. We clued the officer in on the joke and he worked with us. The officer asked for this guy to come talk to him. He was scared to death. After asking him several questions in a serious tone, we let him in on the joke. It was the best rib I have ever have been a part of.
In what ways could pro wrestling in St Louis improve?
Honestly, I think that there are a lot of ways that professional wrestling in St. Louis can improve. Wrestlers need to be given the opportunity to train freely and learn from a variety of different wrestlers to become better wrestlers and make an impact on professional wrestling. Not only can wrestlers learn more from a variety of different styles, they can learn from the history of professional wrestling to make the sport better.
What are the common mistakes that independent promotions make while trying to draw a crowd?
Here are the mistakes that I have seen independent promotions make over the course of my career:
1) Companies do not have people dedicated to advertising the event.
I have seen companies wait until the day of the show and try to hand out flyers, hope that they will draw a crowd based on one poster in the venue, or solely base their advertisements to the Internet. I feel that companies like MMWA, GCW, and LWA have made it a point to focus on a multi-tiered advertisement system. The MMWA has their event posters out a couple of days after their most recent event, promote their shows on their website, and advertise their show dates on their television program. When they were in operation, GCW always made it a point to not only promote their shows online, but they would also be seen at events with flyers promoting their upcoming shows. LWA has done television ads, online promotion, posters, and flyers to advertise. If you are going to be a legitimate company, you need to focus on promotion.
2) Don’t force feed a particular wrestler onto a crowd.
If a company chooses to cram a wrestler or a faction down the throats of wrestling fans, make sure that the wrestler can keep it original. Too many wrestlers, managers, etc. give the fans the same lines at the same place every month. You have to keep it fresh or you burn out people on professional wrestling.
3) Putting people in a wrestling ring before they have been “trained”.
I have seen way too many people that think that they can be a professional wrestler just because they are well built. I spent three years training in a ring every week learning the various aspects of professional wrestling before I had my first match. Granted, I may not have been the best wrestler, referee, manager, or ring announcer, but I was willing to work at things at take constructive criticism. Today, if you say one thing that a wrestler does not like, it becomes a personal attack on that wrestler. The only way wrestlers get better is through training and experience. Wrestlers need to check the egos at the door. There are many times when I, even with my experience, ask people for advice. If you want to be an egomaniac, hit the door and get out of professional wrestling. You are taking up spaces for those that actually care about professional wrestling.
One question that is often brought is advertising of events. I keep up with shows via websites such as Missouri Wrestling Revival (www.missouriwrestlingrevival.com) and the St.
Louis Wrestling Community (http://stlwrestling.livejournal.com). What are the most successful forms of advertising a show and can one start too early?
Advertisement is vital to any professional wrestling event. You need to start advertising as soon as possible for the event. I would say that television is probably the best way, but it is not easy to obtain time on television. The best way to advertise for a show is to get as much information out as possible to inform as many people as possible. Flyers, posters, and the Internet will not individually equal success, yet a combination of these types of promotion is necessary for a professional wrestling company to survive.
Where is the best location, at the moment, for shows?
As far as crowd size is concerned, the South Broadway Athletic Club is the best location for professional wrestling events. The people, however, don’t always go for the wrestling. Many of the people that go there go to meet friends and have a few cheap cold beverages. However, as far as wrestling is concerned, the Knights of Columbus Hall in House Springs, Missouri is the best location for wrestling shows. The fans let you know what they want and always seem to have a great time every time professional wrestling comes to town.
How long should a show last and how many matches are needed?
I feel that a professional wrestling show should be around 2 ½ hours in length. You can have six to seven matches to grab the attention of the audience, provide every wrestling fan something that they want to see, and send everyone home happy. Fans want to go to wrestling shows that have what they want to see on a regular basis.
If you were to book a style of wrestling that could put fans in the seats, which one would you target that you would be most comfortable running?
If I had the opportunity to run my own wrestling show, I would have to say that I would like to focus my promotion around the philosophy of the late Sam Muchnick and the NWA of the 1960’s and 1970’s. I feel that you need an opening match with an individual that a wrestling fan can consistently associate with and get behind with little motivation. Wrestling matches need to keep the action going while keeping the fans on the edge of their seats.
What is your take on wrestling promos and interviews during independent shows?
Interviews and promos during independent shows need to be limited to, at most, one per show. An interview only needs to be conducted to promote an upcoming match or to give focus to a big feud in a promotion. Promos should only be used when a promotion wants to bring fans up to speed on a new feud or a new wrestler entering the promotion. I have been involved with companies where the same wrestler had to have an interview or a promo on every show. In the beginning, the fans hated the wrestler. As time went on, wrestling fans and wrestlers alike began to sour on the promotion. Promos and interviews, when used wisely, are a great tool. In the wrong situation, a promo or interview can ruin a promotion.
True or False: An 80’s WWE star will outdraw a current TNA star in St. Louis?
False. I think that the opinion of the casual wrestling fan is changing. I have been on wrestling events with both WWE and TNA wrestlers. The majority of the fans connect wrestling to what is on television right now. Some people will naturally take the trip down memory lane, but most people want to see the wrestlers that they can see on a regular basis.
What current or former stars were the most down to earth?
Out of all of the wrestlers that I have worked with, I would say that Ace Steel, Mike Quackenbush, Samoa Joe, Davey Richards, and Harley Race have been extremely humble. I genuinely felt that these people would be the same whether they were at a wrestling event or walking down the street.
Which ones did you felt thought highly of themselves?
I haven’t really met anyone on a national level that thought extremely highly of themselves.
What are your thoughts on Internet wrestling fans and what kind of impact do they have?
At times, I have felt that Internet wrestling fans have been a blessing and a curse to the world of professional wrestling. The Internet provides wrestling fans an opportunity to follow their favorite promotion or wrestler. However, the Internet allows fans to think that they know everything about professional wrestling. To me, if you have not been in a wrestling ring, you should not be giving advice, comments, or critiques of what goes on between the ring ropes. I am always more than willing to talk to any wrestling fan about what they have seen or about the history of professional wrestling. However, if you want to think that you know more or can be better than the wrestlers in the ring and you are not willing to make the sacrifices that wrestlers do, then don’t even open your mouth.
Editors Note: Part 2 of this interesting and insightful edition of MWR Spotlight will be published in the next few days. I want to thank Luke Roberts for being kind enough to give us a little of his time, and encourage those who would like to be spotlighted, profiled, or interviewed by Missouri Wrestling Revival to contact me.